At least 19 people unaccounted for after mudslide in Japan

Several homes destroyed in disaster following more than a week of heavy rain

Over 20 people remain missing after torrential rain triggered a large mudslide in Atami, southwest of Tokyo, destroying more than 10 houses in the coastal city. Video: Reuters


At least 19 people are missing after a powerful mudslide swept away rows of houses in Atami, west of Tokyo, Japanese authorities said.

Disaster management officials in Shizuoka prefecture in central Japan say the mudslide occurred on Saturday morning in Atami, a town known for its hot springs.

Prefectural disaster management official Takamichi Sugiyama said rescue workers are searching for at least 19 people, adding the mudslide occurred in an area called Izusan.

Mr Sugiyama said some people in the area are believed to have evacuated but no further details were immediately known.

Television footage showed a powerful, black mudslide slide down a mountainside, knocking down and crushing houses in its way as helpless neighbours watched, some recording on their phones.

Heavy rain has been lashing across Japan since earlier this week, causing rivers to swell in central and the Tokyo region, and increasing the risk of landslides.

Defence forces will join firefighters and police in the rescue operation, Mr Sugiyama added. Evacuation warnings have also been issued for a widespread area.

NHK TV footage later showed a part of a bridge had collapsed.

Atami is a quaint seaside resort area in Shizuoka prefecture, about 60 miles south-west of Tokyo. The area that was hit by the mudslide, Izusan, includes hot springs, residential areas, shopping streets and a famous shrine.